Conroe City Council members speak out concerning recent administration terminations
THE WOODLANDS, TX – Conroe City Hall was abuzz last week with the surprise termination of City Administrator Paul Virgadamo and the simultaneous acceptance of the resignation of assistant city administrator and chief financial officer of the City of Conroe, Steve Williams.
Initial discussions of the terminations took place in closed sessions, but a ‘pick-up’ by the media made the situation public knowledge a day before the vote took place. Virgadamo expressed surprise at the decision, citing his recent performance review, while Williams elected to not attend the Thursday City Council meeting and instead tendered a resignation letter. Conroe City Council voted 3-2 to complete the termination process.
While the possible reasons, motivations, and explanations for the abrupt shift in the upper echelon is still under review and question – likely to be expanded on in future press conferences and City Council meetings – the three council members who voted for the terminations released official statements to Woodlands Online. According to one unnamed source, the council members were impelled to make public their statements on the situation due to it being made public outside of their control.
Councilwoman Marsha Porter
In May, at our city administrator performance review, I was not privy to all the information kept from me in order to make informed city council decisions. I learned that there was a coordinated effort by the mayor and some of city council to amend our city charter. We would have gone from a council/mayor government to a city manager government. The city manager would be able to act independently and control most of the city business. Thus, putting our city council in an advisory position as elected officials. I felt this diminished the voice of the voters. I found out about this when I picked up my packet for the next meeting. We were not notified that an attorney had been hired a year earlier to research this issue. We were not informed of a EEOC complaint filed against a former city council member. We were not informed by the city administrator that SJRA was reducing the amount of surface water during a time of near drought and high-water usage. The city was nearing our maximum demand to what the city could provide from our water wells. The lack of information was becoming routine. I have addressed these problems with the city administrator on numerous occasions with these significant issues. With the continued lack of response, I just felt like the time had come when a change needed to be made.
Councilmember Harry Hardman
First and foremost, I want to thank Paul and Steve for their years of hard work and dedicated service to the City of Conroe. They are good men and I regret the way in which Paul was terminated. However, I ultimately supported the motion because of major ongoing transparency concerns and a growing unhealthy culture in which Paul was leading amongst staff. I believe a change in leadership was needed to ensure transparency, growth, and sustainability. As I promised when I was elected, I work daily to ensure Conroe continues to be the best place, in the best state, to live.
Councilmember Howard Wood
The City Administrator violated the trust of this council by choosing to withhold significant city information from some Council Members along political lines.
Chiefly among the information withheld was knowledge of a coordinated effort by the mayor and some council members to amend our city charter. For over a year, the city administrator kept the engagement of an attorney and the selection of a 30-member committee from certain members of council in an effort which would have resulted in the increase of power of that position and greatly reduce an elected city council’s role in city decisions.
Recent discoveries of an Official Employment Complaint about a former Council Member, and information about a reduction in city water supply have all revealed just how routine this practice had become. I can’t do my job as a council member if I’m not properly informed.
Woodlands Online will keep readers abreast of this developing situation.